“The Way is tough .. The Way is rough .. The Way is … exactly what you make of it.”
Like in real life. My journey along the Portuguese Way of St. James (13 days, 260 kilometres walking) has changed my life. Once more. In a very healthy way, I believe. I know, for instance, that I do want to “go back” to walking for a week or two more often, in order to refresh the mind & soul. I also know that I do want a certain type of luxury doing that. Now let me explain what I mean by this. My dear friend & co-Camino blogger Rita Branco always mentioned, while walking from Porto to Santiago: “Basta sofrer no caminho ..” – “It’s enough to suffer along the Way, walking ..”. Prompting her to use her strong networks in the north of Portugal as well as in Galicia to research a whole host of diverse and interesting Camino accommodation alternatives to the standard pilgrim hostels, from hotels, to bed & breakfasts as well as apartments, for making our way to Santiago.
It’s the early 21st century. Digital influencers are ruling the world. Why not on the Camino?
I admit, it does sound a bit off, all this new age digital marketing stuff while walking a very ancient pilgrimage route. “So, you are on the Camino blogging, using Snapchat and Facebook … and they have invited you everywhere?!” Very often, I remember Rita and I having to smile, explaining to other pilgrims what we do as professional travel writers and bloggers, which in case you are interested is summarised here: http://www.slideshare.net/CreativeTourism/duas-bloggers-um-caminho.
All of this has resulted in us being able to recommend you everything but pilgrims’ hostels. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with them per se: It is just that we wanted, searched for & came up with something completely different.
For us two, it has always been about: Arriving, relaxing, having peace. A room on your own or just the two of us. Sleeping well after the physical strain of walking for so long. Just retreating for an hour or two, not having to say anything to anyone. Meeting such nice hosts, who put so much time, love and attention to detail to everything, miraculously dishing up the most delicious breakfasts and/or dinners for us. Honestly and truly: Most of the accommodation we stayed at in Portugal & Galicia didn’t cost so much more than the standard pilgrims’ hostels, either. What they do offer, however, is a lot more comfort and style. Trust me (and Rita), when we say: “Basta sofrer no caminho ..”!
The first part of my article about food & accommodation along the Way talks about more charming places to stay in the north of Portugal: Hidden gems for sure, and not only while walking the Camino. This time, though, let us continue in Galicia.
1. Hotel Portas do Sol in Valença.
The city of Valença is actually still located in Portugal, but like the adjacent town of Tui, just across the border, it is a popular spot from which to start the remaining 100km to Santiago. What is more, lots of accommodation here are located right inside Valença’s old fortress within the heart of the old town. Towering high above the river Minho, it offers a kind of “retreat-style atmosphere” for us pilgrims – ahead of “battling the remaining kilometres” by crossing into Galicia in Spain. 😀
2. Hotel Alfonso I in Tui.
Only seven kilometres ahead, past the Cathedral of Tui, we reach our next pilgrim’s lair: Hotel Alfonso I. This day not only marks exactly half point along the Portuguese Way of St. James, but also represents a “rest day” with only seven kilometres over our usual 20 kilometres per day. We thus take a long lunch break in the small town of Tui itself before walking out to Hotel Alfonso I. The hotel is located some two kilometres off the Camino itself, but compensates by providing a spot-on transfer service for all pilgrims. Gladly, we take it up the following morning for an early start. Check this out.
3. Pazo Torres Agrelo in Redondela.
Same story, different location: Our next resting place along the Camino, Hotel Pazo Torres Agrelo in Redondela, near Vigo by the sea, also offers to transfer us from the city centre to its quaint little residence high atop a hill (exactly what you need after another day’s worth of weary bones and burning feet). The country hotel itself is surrounded by a beautiful park including stunning vistas across to the sea and Galicia’s coastline. I recommend you to spend more time here than just a night! Once more, Rita and I are able to relax truly and fully.
4. Parador de Pontevedra.
Wonderful, just wonderful: “Elena. The Parador of Pontevedra has confirmed to host us while on the Camino!” Rita’s eyes on the other side of the screen light up, as we go over our last preparations during our Skype meeting between Austria and Portugal. The Paradores, a truly noble hotel chain in Spain, represents a whole host of historical city & country residences located in old monasteries, castles and palaces. Already in 2005, I was lucky enough to visit some of them with my family (Ronda in Andalusia, Santo Domingo de la Calzada in La Rioja). Now, Rita and I are back to experiencing the magic of old. My tip for you: Head over to the Paradores website for a complete, up-to-date info page (in English) about their offers for pilgrims: http://www.parador.es/en/way-st-james.
5. Caldas de Reis & the “Casa Antiga do Monte” in Padrón.
From Pontevedra, it is another 20 kilometres’ walk to Caldas de Reis and from there, again the same distance to reach Padrón. Caldas de Reis saw us renting our own apartment right along the Camino, inside the old town, whereas we had to walk another two kilometres to reach “A Casa Antiga Do Monte“. Our host had offered to pick us up, too, but I guess we already got too excited (and strong!), being only a day away from Santiago de Compostela now. Take a look at our last night’s resting lair, ahead of reaching our final destination the following day.
6. Parador de Santiago de Compostela.
Last but not least: Our arrival. Excitement and inner peace at the same time. Dizzy, almost, from all the physical effort of walking and yet so calm and satisfied. Reaching the Cathedral of Santiago as a pilgrim, is a magical experience hard to describe in words. Intense, deep, and very personal. What better present, therefore, to give to my beloved Rita than offering ourselves the pleasure of staying at the very Parador de Santiago de Compostela, the city’s (only?) five star hotel right across from the world-famous Cathedral? All the Way, I kept it a secret, our efforts to promote alternative options for accommodation along the Camino now resulting in this true gift for ourselves. OBRIGADA, my dear Rita, for all your efforts, love and patience along the Way with me !!!
Want to know how to get started planning & preparing a Camino adventure such as this one? In my previous post, I talk about the “10 Top Travel Tips” for the preparation of the Portuguese Way of St. James. Check out all my inspiring & useful travel pictures along the Portuguese Way of St. James here:
More pictures about our accommodation along the Way in Portugal & Galicia are available here, including all of our accommodation in hotels, B&Bs, apartments, etc.:
My dear companion friend & pilgrim blogger Rita Branco has also published about the Camino on her blog, “O Porto Encanta“, in her truly light-hearted and captivating way: “Do Porto para Santiago de Compostela: Uma experiência incrível.” Check out all articles she has published about the Camino here: “O Caminho Português de Santiago” .
Besides, English expat blogger, writer & translator Julie Dawn Fox has also published the following articles about the Portuguese Way of St. James here.
Disclaimer: We wish to thank our partners & accommodation providers along the Portuguese Way of St. James for their generous support. All opinions are my own.